Although a very advanced country, the United States has one of the worst infant mortality rates amongst the industrialized countries of the world. Infant mortality is defined as a child who is born alive but dies within its first year of life. The three main causes in the U.S. of infant mortality are congenital malformations, deformations, and chromosomal abnormalities. When including infant injuries and maternal complications with pregnancy, these problems account for 60% of all infant mortalities. Luckily, there is something pharmacists can do to help improve mother and infant health through all stages of pregnancy.
Improving healthcare access has proven to be a positive factor for infant mortality throughout all living environments and income levels. Because pharmacists are one of the most accessible healthcare providers, we can intervene and educate future parents. Whether it is a planned pregnancy or unplanned, pharmacists are able to promote healthy lifestyles for the preconception period, pregnancy, and the postpartum period of a woman’s life. With free resources such as the Affordable Care Act that provide patient education, pharmacists can reach out to women promote a healthy lifestyle in the preconception period.
Pharmacists can also be available to help expecting mothers with their disease states, figuring out ways to monitor the disease without using medications that may harm the fetus. The pharmacist should obtain an extensive medication list, current and past, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications to best identify potential hazards for the mom and the child. It is then important in the postpartum period to educate the mother on vaccines the infant can receive to avoid common illnesses. In addition, pharmacists should emphasize the importance of the mother’s health postpartum, as there will be many changes in her body and life during this time.
Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, pharmacists can educate on contraceptives. Over half of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned pregnancies, with half of the couples with unintended pregnancies stating they used a form of contraception in the month prior to conception. Educating on the proper use of contraception forms could help to lower the unplanned pregnancies, and in turn lower infant mortality rate. It only takes a five minute explanation from a pharmacist to help teach how to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, and the more pharmacists educate, the more the public will turn to them with further questions.
Mager, Natalie A. “Preventing Infant Mortality: Pharmacists’ Call to Action.” Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. Elsevier Inc. 2016. Web. 8 February 2016.